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UCSB’s septuagennial anniversary — you would think that this event would have been mentioned somewhere by this point, but as of yet I have not heard anyone address the topic of UCSB’s seventieth birthday. Granted, it appears that there is enough occurring on and around our campus at this time to distract us away from retrospection. Reviewing campus-related news this previous week, the main focus of late appears to be denunciations of out-of-towners at Deltopia, the reaffirmation of UCSB’s status as a laudable academic institution despite the melee at the aforementioned event and the upcoming campus election and accompanying deluge of recycled advertisements for students running in that contest.
Since being given the wonderful opportunity by our Education Abroad Program to study at one of the world’s oldest academic institutions, it has been difficult for me not to think of UCSB as a young school — immature both in the time since its founding and the apparent milieu it seems to foster, according to some. But, as the countless sweatshirts remind me on the chilly journey to my biweekly 8 a.m. class, our campus was supposedly founded seventy years ago this year. Certainly, this is old for a person but not for a university.
I have always found the 1944 date somewhat dubious. You see, our school was neither founded in that year, nor constructed in it. 1944 is simply the year in which the UC — as it had done earlier with the UCLA campus — decided to annex a state school, much to the chagrin of those who governed it. Indeed, the CSU launched a failed attempt to sue the UC for this tactic, and later that year a ballot initiative was passed which permanently banned the future practice of the University of California claiming CSU schools for itself.
So how old is our school actually? Well, you have probably heard a prior comment or two about the former Anna Blake School, our spiritual predecessor, founded in 1891, which then became the state school located within the city limits of Santa Barbara. Of course, the physical location at which we now reside was not constructed until the late 1950s. For a decade, the “new” UC languished after its 1944 induction into the University of California — it was ignored so much by the UC that university president Clark Kerr later referred to UCSB as “A Cinderella Campus,” perhaps comparing us to an aloof and forced stepchild who was not readily accepted into the fold of the University of California.
Of course, this is something that has changed in recent decades, as both the accomplishments and infrastructure of the school has developed relatively rapidly, and alterations are being implemented to allow the expansion of the student population over the next decade. While it is unlikely that many of us will be around to witness the growth of our campus firsthand in the years to come, there is perhaps a certain amount of comfort that may be had in knowing the development of our institution has not hit a wall, and that it will continue to refine its own unique and exemplary identity, despite what its detractors might claim about UCSB’s “image.”
Now, if you’re already a student of this school, it is unlikely that I will have to take the time and space to sing paeans of its laudable qualities — chances are you are already sold on these, as you have had an opportunity to experience them firsthand. However, as you may have noticed, we are currently experiencing the spring influx of prospective students visiting with their families. Not so long ago I was one of them myself and now, rather than imagining my potential future at this campus, I am forced to consider my near-imminent departure, as we all must someday. Though it is possible that a few potential students may be dissuaded from enrolling at our school because of recent events, anyone worth having here (that is to say, those who are capable of discerning the value of an institution by taking all of its qualities into consideration) should be capable of seeing our school as existing as something more than just the host of raucous social events. And for those less socially inclined, I can name a few other UC campuses as more fitting alternatives …
I suppose the point that I am trying to relate is that it is not necessary for anyone in our community to apologize for any supposed “reputation” we might have. Santa Barbara is ultimately better off for being able to count this campus as its own, just as those who have had the benefit of calling this place home have felt their lives made richer as a result of the experience.
Jonathan Rogers knows that there’s nothing better than a good Cinderella story.